A small but mighty cohort of Native Americans enrolled in our new Habitat Restoration pilot training this spring as they prepare for careers in conservation, horticulture and/or agriculture. Our latest cohort includes Savana (Dine), Lorie (Clatsop/Chinook), Jasmine (Crow, Blackfoot) and Alex. They have immersed themselves in indigenous perspectives on habitat restoration and are learning the most important components of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the classroom. They also appreciate the experiential service learning activities at our sites. They will conclude the training with a public presentation by sharing an emerging research topic at our celebration Thursday, May 26. The celebration at Chemeketa Community College will be by invitation only because of the ongoing pandemic, but our entire community will be invited to join us as our guest virtually on Zoom. That link will be provided in our May newsletter. We gained some feedback from our interns in our first academic training session when we asked what habitat restoration means to them. We also asked them to share their expectations for the training. Their varied responses included:
I want to return a piece of land back to a functioning state by working more in reciprocity with Nature, not just in a role of humans’ dominant control over the land.
I hope to learn about Native plants and traditional techniques to make sure Native plants have longevity and can restore biodiversity.
I want to be physically engaged while restoring habitat. I want to move my body and make it feel part of the land. As a kinesthetic learner, I learn by doing in an interpersonal way. I am also a visual learner so I learn by seeing images, and I am auditory so I can learn from listening.
I want to be logical by learning from assessments so I know what I am doing when restoring habitat and what is supposed to be there. I also want to learn by making mistakes.
I want to learn to restore what was disturbed, like mitigation work. I am expecting to build a foundation of knowledge so I can identify what is Native and non-native, and learn how to care for plants.
I am wanting to create a project that fulfills partners’ dreams for us as we create a crew of Native American habitat restoration workers who can create future pathway into self-employment and eventual multi-generational prosperity.
Funding for this pilot project was provided by Meyer Memorial Trust and The Collins Foundation whose support is deeply meaningful to our staff and board. Without the financial assistance of these foundations who value diversity, equity and inclusion of underrepresented peoples, this spring training would not have been possible. There has been a ripple effect in our statewide community and we have observed other foundations increasing their commitment to DEI. The relationships with these foundations go much deeper than funding. Their vote of confidence in our equity, capacity building and conservation work synergistically increases our commitment to serve our Native people. It strengthens our resolve to reach even deeper as we continue to support vulnerable but gifted members of our community. We are also making plans to provide the TEK Workforce training this fall in partnership with Chemeketa Community College, followed by the next Habitat Restoration training that is scheduled for spring 2023. If you are Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and interested in the internship, please contact us and we will keep you updated on enrollment plans for the next cohort of 8 students in the Fall of 2022. Other students of color can also become qualified to enroll if openings are available.